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Incorporate 'time savers' into every aspect of practice

Article-Incorporate 'time savers' into every aspect of practice

There are only so many hours in the day, and you don't want to spend all of them at work. Isn't there a way you can use work time more wisely and get more done without working longer hours?

Elizabeth Woodcock, M.B.A., F.A.C.M.P.E., C.P.C.
The good news is that, yes, you can get more work done each day and you won't have to stay later, hire more staff or take unacceptable shortcuts.

Three kinds of time

The first step is to stop thinking that all time is the same.

There are three kinds of time on the job: productive time, wasted time and time that can be delegated. The next step is to realize that time is finite. The only way you can increase time in productive activities is to eliminate wasted time and delegate what work you can to others.

Here are some tips to start using time more efficiently:

Eliminate wasted time. You're probably aware that you spend a few minutes here and there each day trying to find things — from gauze to biopsy results. You probably don't know how much time that adds up to each week. It could be 30 minutes or more. That's valuable time in which a busy cosmetic surgeon could have seen several more patients.

To get back on track, make preparation tasks a key role for your support staff. Require staff to prepare each day's clinic by turning on computers and restocking rooms with the supplies and equipment you'll need that day.

Your staff should be accountable for previewing your charts. Also, task them with comparing any orders you placed at the patient's previous visit with any results that have since arrived. If those results are missing, then your staff should track them down before the patient arrives.

Although your staff may complain that they cannot find the time for chart preview, remind them that it's not "new" work. Someone already is tracking down missing information in your practice each day, but they are probably doing it in the midst of chaos. That's hardly conducive to optimal patient service — or your productivity.

Compress time. Dictate your notes in the exam room. You may be in the habit of completing documentation at the end of the day, but recalling details of each patient visit later on uses more time overall than exam room dictation.

An extra 60 seconds of recall time per chart may not sound like much, but it adds up to a half an hour for 30 charts.

In addition to improving efficiency, exam room dictation — if handled correctly — gives patients a chance to hear your assessment and plan one more time. You can minimize your malpractice risk by concluding each note with the phrase: "Dictated in the presence of the patient."

Pull in work. Tackle another big time-waster: Inefficiency in organizing and managing messages. How? Pull in the work and do it. At least once an hour your nurse should bring you the latest results, forms, prescription renewal requests and other paperwork. Don't just glance at that information and put it aside for later. Do it now because "later in the day" will often end up being "in the evening." Although you may need to dedicate a few more minutes an hour, you won't be stuck in the office every night. If you're compliant with pulling in the work, your staff need not spend every morning completing the work you leave them from your evening work sessions. You'll not only start office hours on time, but you'll have your staff's full attention working alongside you to effectively perform current work.

There may be a few tasks that you will have to save until office hours are over, but most others can easily be done during regular hours. Pulling in the work eliminates wasted time. It keeps your staff focused on you — rather than on organizing, prioritizing and managing the pieces of paper around you.

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